Manufacturing is changing – and it’s being driven by technology trends. Is your company ready to capitalize on these innovations?
Here are eight areas to watch.
The Internet of Things became a buzzword a few years ago for good reason: experts estimate that there will be 25 billion connected things in use by 2021. That’s up nearly 80% from counts in 2019. IoT technologies are already in widespread use in manufacturing, often with fascinating applications.
Supply chain management, for example, looks vastly different today than it did a decade ago, as connected devices track chains in real-time and either automate backfill or pass data to decision makers. The next decade promises more innovation.
2. Electronic wearables.
Reasearchandmarkets.com found that the market for industrial wearables is set to grow to $2.78 billion by 2024 – a compound annual growth rate of 9.2% over a period of five years.
Why are wearables (smart electronic devices that collect and pass data and can be worn on the body) trending up? They’re used to track employee activity on manufacturing floors to improve safety and HR efficiency. Employees’ vital signs can be tracked, and spikes in blood pressure or changes to oxygen levels can trigger alerts to proactively address health issues. On the HR front, companies can link data to employee welfare programs to reduce healthcare costs.
3. Big data is a big deal.
Big data is another buzzword that’s worthy of its hype. The concept is pretty simple at a basic level; “big data” just refers to huge amounts of data. The power of big data is that processing it effectively can allow for powerful insights.
Manufacturing is inherently data-driven, and the facilities that are able to best harness their data to improve processes and decision-making will have significant advantages.
4. The growth of ERP solutions.
This is related to the topic of data: enterprise resource planning solutions are increasingly enabling manufacturing firms to effectively manage their data (and the processes it represents). ERPs have been around for a few decades, so they aren’t a trend in the sense that they’re new as a concept – but they are becoming more and more instrumental in manufacturing processes. The next decade will see successful manufacturers thrive with large-scale data integrations to make workflow more efficient.
5. 5G is here.
5G has been hyped by phone companies like AT&T and Verizon for the last few years for good reason: it exponentially improves upload and download speeds on networks while drastically reducing latency. (Here’s a helpful primer on what the technology entails.)
For manufacturers, 5G represents the infrastructure that will support game-changing technologies. By vastly reducing latency, 5G sets the stage for the use of powerful automated technologies that previously were impossible or limited in application. For example, big data will be easier to manage – from anywhere. Robots on a production line, no longer required to be tethered to a cable, will introduce new efficiencies through increased mobility. And AR and VR will become cordless, too.
6. Virtual reality and augmented reality.
Speaking of AR and VR – these two technologies are poised to become critical parts of many manufacturing processes.
Augmented reality involves the blending of computer-generated data with real-world surroundings. The possibilities for use are incredibly wide-ranging, but one example is inventory management. According to PwC, “Some companies are fitting warehouse workers with smartglasses which read barcodes on containers of supplies inventory boxes” which then can relay detail on the destination or origin of the information.
Virtual reality (which is solely computer-generated data and imagery) has similarly endless applications; many manufacturers are already using it in product development, safety skills training, and process design, to name a few.
7. Predictive maintenance.
This is another trend that isn’t new in concept but is being applied in innovative ways. Manufacturers have traditionally understood the value of preventative maintenance on their machines – it’s obviously better to change the oil regularly than to let the machine break.
Now, the concept of preventative maintenance (fixing problems before they arise) is being combined with IoT data to identify equipment deficiencies before they cause problems – an approach called predictive maintenance. At a basic level, for example, this might mean having an IoT-connected machine send an alert when fluid levels are low. At a higher level, it might mean a machine recognizing a variety of stress factors and sending an alert predicting an outage within three days. Regardless, the outcome of this is less downtime.
Finally, as technology trends like those above become incorporated into traditional manufacturing processes, cybersecurity continues to increase in importance.
The University of Maryland reports that hackers attack every 39 seconds – or, on average, 2,244 times each day. That number is only increasing. And newer technologies are often vulnerable; IoT technologies, especially, are often poorly protected, leaving critical data unsecured.
As manufacturing companies implement new technologies, then, they must also have cybersecurity services that proactively address these risks.
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These trends will drive manufacturing IT forward – and many manufacturing companies are already putting them to use to get an advantage on the competition.
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At ATB Technologies, we’ve found that too many manufacturing companies are stagnating with outdated IT thanks to a lack of communication around needs and ideal solutions. We remove this barrier by hiring for communication skills and customer service. We take an end-to-end approach to IT that gives businesses the best technology for their needs and prevents issues before they happen so that our clients can turn IT into an advantage.
Plus, our team of in-house, US-based developers is built specifically for manufacturing ERP customization. We can help you to implement technologies that reap real results.
If you’re looking for a next-level technology solution for your manufacturing firm, let’s talk.